(WGHP) – A strong geomagnetic storm caused by the sun could impact Earth later this week, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center said Tuesday it was monitoring the sun and solar winds following a series of coronal mass ejections that began on Sunday.
Space weather forecasters predicted a strong geomagnetic storm for Thursday evening and a moderate geomagnetic storm on Friday, prompting geomagnetic storm watches.
Forecasters are monitoring a “small, but compact and magnetically complex cluster” referred to as Region 3078. The region produced frequent eruptions early Tuesday morning, according to NOAA. Flares are still possible from the 3078 region, but recent imagery has indicated possible signs of weakening and potential degradation.
Forecasters continue to monitor NOAA’s DSCOVR satellite and its real-time solar winds for signs of the arrival and strength of coronal mass ejections.
NOAA reports that despite the number of coronal mass ejections, “most are expected to have little or no impact on Earth” as they are expected to “pass past or south of Earth’s orbit.”
Earlier this month, NOAA noted that a coronal hole in the sun’s atmosphere could trigger a geomagnetic storm.
Geomagnetic storms can impact infrastructure in near-Earth orbit and on the surface, potentially disrupting communications, the power grid, navigation, radio and satellites.
Coronal holes are “regions cooler and less dense than the surrounding plasma and are regions of open unipolar magnetic fields,” the NOAA explains. “This open magnetic field line structure allows solar wind to escape into space more easily, resulting in relatively fast solar wind currents.”
While some headlines cast the event as an apocalyptic hole in the sun, Rob Steenburgh of NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Office told Nexstar: “They happen all the time and there’s no reason to s ‘alarm”.
Minor geomagnetic storms can cause small fluctuations in the power grid, impact satellite operations on spacecraft, and make the aurora borealis visible in the sky at high latitudes, such as parts of Michigan and Maine.
Auroras for this week’s storm may be visible if weather conditions are favorable as far south as Pennsylvania, Iowa and parts of Oregon. Check out the latest NOAA Northern Lights forecast here.
The Space Weather Prediction Center will issue additional warnings related to this week’s storm if needed, NOAA said Tuesday.
While the solar cycle is not yet at its peak, NASA said activity has already exceeded predictions. Flares and solar flares will likely increase by 2025 when we reach “solar maximum”, writes Nicola Fox, director of NASA’s Heliophysics Division.
Still, experts say there is no need to fear a doomsday scenario.
“Some people fear that a gigantic ‘killer solar flare’ could send out enough energy to destroy the Earth, but that’s actually not possible,” says NASA.
In addition, the solar cycles repeat every 11 years. This means that anyone over the age of 11 has experienced a solar maximum (and probably didn’t notice it happening).
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